Thursday, January 24, 2019

Rome Journal: Real Estate of Antiquity

Imagine if Yankee Stadium were located in Times Square. That’s tantamount to the location that Rome’s Colosseum, the largest amphitheater in history (and one of the Seven Wonders of the world), occupies. Actually, the population inside the walls of ancient Rome, numbering approximately 500,000 was a lot smaller than a modern city and in lieu of skyscrapers filled with people, there was just the old agora—so Romans attending events were unlikely to have experienced the kind of traffic jams that are now produced when fans travel to see the Giants at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. The fact that it was commissioned by Vespasian in 72AD and finished by his son Titus in 80 (and later Domitian) makes it a construction project that was also completed in record breaking time, even by modern day standards. How often have federal and state projects (like the Mario Cuomo Bridge) become mired in red tape! However, construction was probably facilitated by the comparative lack of building codes that needed to be satisfied in ancient times. The fact that an estimated 300,000 people and animals died in the skirmishes which were entertainment and that the whole project which could attract between 50-80,000 spectators rudely came to a halt in the 6th century is also astonishing—though everything including the one-time indomitable seeming Roman Empire had to come to an end. But consider a crowd of this magnitude coming mostly on foot, in the absence of any mass transit system. Where was the the parking for the higher-ups who may have come in chariots? And what was the ancient equivalent of the Hosteria al Gladiatore which currently faces the Eternal City's hottest tourist attraction?

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